The Breakdown of the Perceptual Matrix - Dr Richard Moss Interview by David Rivers

 The Breakdown of the Perceptual Matrix

Dr Richard Moss

Okay, so how many years ago was it now, that this change in your state of consciousness that you speak about, took place?

It was 1977.  I was 30.  

What was occupying your consciousness in that general period of your life?

When I looked back at the time and asked myself, “Why did this happen to me?” I thought about it in many different terms. But one scientific model that could act as a metaphor is the notion for which Ilya Prigogine got the Nobel Prize. It was his dissipative structures concept, which says that certain systems, when you add energy to them, will break down and degenerate into chaos, while other systems will organize into a way of handling more energy than before.  So, a new pattern emerges that can handle much more energy than before.  At least, that was my way of understanding it… 

I had been living at full tilt.  I was doing emergency-room medicine, and clinical adult medicine, in my clinic and at a hospital.  If I wasn't doing some kind of spiritual retreat or inquiry, I'd be rushing off to rock climb whenever I had free time.  I was part of an organization called Seekers After Truth, and we were doing work that was related to Ichazo, Gurdjieff, Vipassana, and a whole bunch of things.  I had finished an intensive process of family self-inquiry, which now is called The Hoffman Process – at the time it was called The Fischer-Hoffman Process— and was being taught by Bob Hoffman and a few people that he trained. It was about a six-month process that involved, oh, at least ten to twenty hours a week of writing and work. And there I was doing emergency-room medicine and climbing.  In 1975 I’d gone to Peru, and for the first time had done real high-altitude mountaineering in some very challenging and dangerous conditions that took me to the physical limits of myself.  So I was at a peak level, physically.   I was also using my mind, intensely and fully.  I was seeking in the age-old sense of seeking to know myself, seeking to understand the deeper mysteries.  And I was engaged in a work that I knew was never going to be my lifetime career, but which was, nevertheless, quite challenging, and where I would often put in long hours.  And I was doing significant rebuilding and remodelling of my own house, as well as beginning to develop a few rental properties.  So my life was amazingly full, and then this transformational experience or awakening process just “happened.” 


Actually, I never sought after it.  I didn’t have within my model that some specific experience might happen that would change me.  I hadn’t read enough or thought enough about that possibility. I had really no awareness of people like Ramana Maharshi or Nisargadatta or Ramakrishna, or Aurobindo, or any of the Indian sages; that came later. But I was reading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I was studying the sutras and meditating in the mornings, for a few hours, and going  to the clinic, or doing what I was doing.  Some of this input I understood but mostly, I really didn’t understand.  

The actual experience that happened was simply—or not so simply —a breakdown of my perceptual matrix; first, a loss of boundary, a sense of merging with everything, which I at first found very frightening.  The “me” consciousness wasn’t so much surrendering as it was being overwhelmed, in the way in which a drug experience might overwhelm it, but this was not related to any drug experience.

This experience was going on for a few days. And right at that time, I had the chance to meet Franklin Merrell-Wolff  – a man of realization, a Western sage.  I would describe him as a western version of someone like Ramana Maharshi. You can read him: Pathways Through to Space and The Philosophy of Consciousness Without An Object are his two principal books.  He also gave many talks on tape.  He was an old man of 89 when I met him.  In fact, I met him on the day that this perceptual breakdown started. Seeking to understand what was going on, I asked myself a question:  “Is this phenomenological in the sense of medical?”  And based on my medical background, it couldn’t be explained. What I was experiencing couldn’t be explained as psychosis; it wasn’t a seizure; there was no explanation. The next basic question actually came from a sudden realization.  While I wasn’t Christian, or religious, just before this happened, maybe a month before, I had carefully read the Gospels, and for some reason they'd had a very powerful impacted on me. I cried. There was a lot of recognition and I didn’t know why.  I was really so deeply moved. 

I could say that for a year before this event, there was a very strong sense of foreshadowing, in the sense that I just kept feeling like “What am I alive for?  There’s no reason to be alive.”  There was a despair. Even though I was doing all these things, it all seemed very meaningless to me.  It didn’t seem real. It was real when someone was suffering; it was real when I was working with someone in the emergency room. But my life seemed so unreal to me.  The climbing, which was somewhat before that, was of course very real.  But what seemed unreal to me was why I even put myself in that experience – why was I pushing my edges that way?  So when this unexplainable experience came, I said to myself, “Okay, if I can’t explain this, then I will simply observe what’s happening in my mind.'” And I went into an intense process of saying, “This is a thought (as a thought came into my mind)…this is a feeling (as I observed a feeling,) here is another thought….”  And when I say intense, I mean it’s the only thing I did. 

The perceptual process had broken down, and it went on for days. I was unable to sleep – there was so much energy moving through me.  I was just unable to sleep.  Along the way I realized that every thought created a feeling.  Every thought created an emotion.  Every emotion created a thought.  I had to disengage thought from emotion: I knew that.  I don’t know how I knew it.  And then I had a vision that Jesus had realized this state. Someone had come before me.  I didn’t have any background in Buddhism, or Hinduism, or any threads of mysticism that I had paid much attention to.  Only Walt Whitman’s poetry. So I said to myself, “Well, if Jesus has lived through this, then I understand that consciousness is perpetual… uninterrupted, and available to me.”  So, I had the insight: I have to realize that consciousness. Whatever that consciousness was, I had to realize it.  That’s when the inquiry process started.   


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